The “Trump Effect” at School?

Jewish schools and Jewish community center pre-schools have received 126 bomb threats in 2017. (Update: 144 as of March 16; latest from Jewish Daily Forward) Two DC area schools were among those threatened in late February: the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville and Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax. Schools around the country report seeing swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti. Children are also affected by shootings, vandalism, and a variety of other hate incidents in synagogues, cemeteries, and other Jewish spaces.

This morning, we’ll be joined a DC public school alumnus concerned about the atmosphere at his old school, after a swastika was recently found, following earlier racist and anti-Semitic incidents. Full radio program here.

Trump Effect reportIn DC and around the country, children of immigrant and Muslim communities face a variety of threats as well as actual deportations, separation of families due to harassment at U.S. borders, and attacks on mosques and other sacred and community spaces.

LGBTQ community centers are seeing a rise in vandalism and violence. DC’s Casa Ruby, which serves transgender youth and adults, has suffered three incidents of violent harassment in the last two weeks. (NBC report)

Confederate flags, KKK- and lynching-related images are also appearing in disparate places, including a Maine high school.

The overall situation is sometimes called the “Trump Effect,” although there are not enough data from prior to the election to accurately chart a rise in school hate incidents.

However, just after the election, however, the Southern Poverty Law Center collected 2500 school-based reports of hate incidents that educators attributed to election rhetoric. In addition, schools where teachers said they did not hear derogatory language or anti-immigrant sentiment were often those with students belonging exclusively to targeted populations, and they did report students feeling vulnerable and scared. Nine out of ten of the 10,000 educators responding to the survey said they were seeing “a negative impact on students’ mood and behavior following the election,” and reported worries about continuing impact.

Some schools and school systems are teaming up with neighbors – synagogues or mosques, for example – to conduct educational programs when hate incidents occur. Some have established programs to address trauma and bullying. Many are actively seeking to serve as legal and emotional sanctuaries. But too many have no plan to respond to this administration’s effect on students.

Organizations like Teaching for Change and Teaching Tolerance offer a variety of related materials for use with different age groups. (See also Responding to Hate and Bias at School.)

front-cover-web-364pxIn addition, Reflection Press recently published When a Bully is President: Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times. Designed for children ages 7-10, this bilingual book (Spanish-English) is also useful for other age groups, including adults. The book encourages readers to stand in their own truth, as a way of responding to oppression, offering simple art exercises to help. The publisher offers a free downloadable readers’ guide, and the author shares related resources on her website.

If you know of additional resources to share here, please let us know. And please be sure to report any incidents of hate, in schools or beyond, to the “Documenting Hate” project.



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